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Google agrees to not use Fitbit's data for ads, earns merger approval from EU
- The European Commission has approved Google’s acquisition of Fitbit.
- However, the company has agreed to several concessions that will limit what it can do with the data it collects from Fitbit devices.
- Google has also agreed to honor the EU’s conditions for at least 10 years.
As expected, Google had to agree to several conditions, which it will have to honor for at least 10 years, to get the EU’s blessing. Most notably, it told the Commission it won’t use the health and wellness data it collects through Fitbit devices to augment its ads business. It’s also obligated to maintain free access to Fitbit’s Web API, which allows developers to create apps that access data collected by Fitbit’s fitness trackers and smart scales. Under the terms of the agreement, Fitbit users in the European Economic Area will have the option to prevent the company from feeding their health and wellness data to other Google services such as Maps.
Another significant facet of the approval relates to Google’s stewardship of Android. The company has agreed to continue freely licensing the software APIs hardware manufacturers require to make their wearables work with the company’s mobile operating system. The EU has also imposed conditions that prevent the company from circumventing or cheating that requirement. For instance, the agreement covers Google’s future improvements to features like GPS and Bluetooth access. The company also can’t degrade the user experience on third-party wearables by displaying error messages and permission requests in a way that’s discriminatory against a third-party player.
Approval from the European Commission is a major milestone for Google as it works towards closing the deal, but the company still has yet to gain regulatory support from the US government. And more than anything else, that may end up delaying or scuttling the deal. The company is currently the subject of two separate antitrust lawsuits in the country, including one lead by the Justice Department. Those suits are focused on Google’s search and ad businesses. Still, you have to imagine it will be difficult for the company to convince lawmakers to approve a splashy acquisition while it’s accused of anti-competitive practices.